I’m excited to finally be able to reveal what I’ve been working away on over the last few months: a set of woven tea towels for my Mum’s birthday!
These turned out so well. :) Not much like the original sample concept I tried back in January … but since then I managed to borrow a table top 4-shaft loom which made these little beauties possible.
I wound the warp in plain white cottolin (a blend of linen and cotton):
These long threads go onto the loom, winding onto the back beam:
I made the raddle myself out of a bit of spare timber, and some nails. It’s a bit shonky, but it did the trick!
Once the warp is wound on, each of those threads needs to be individually threaded through the heddles (the white vertical strings). When I pull the levers, different sets of heddles go up, making different patterns on the surface of the cloth.
Once the heddles are done, it’s time to sley the reed (cue husband giggling insanely — he think all these weaving terms are just made up!). That means pulling each thread through the metal slots, and tying up in groups to the front beam. In the photo above, I’ve started to weave using a bit of spare wool, and you can see that the first threads are starting to spread out evenly across the width of the cloth.
As for the tea towels themselves, first I wove a sample in green, cut it off the loom and wet finished it:
This worked really well, so I then moved on to the colours I wanted for my Mum. Each of the patterns is based on a “Birds Eye” threading, which is a type of twill. It’s easy to make a lot of different diagonal and diamond shapes by varying which of the four shafts I lift up every time I pass the weft thread.
I wet finished these in the washing machine so that the threads would shrink together and lock into place. Then I rolled them with a rolling pin (yes, really!) to soften the fibres and give them a bit of shine.
I found that with each of my tea towels I had to cut them off the loom and adjust the tension of the warp before weaving the next towel. Here is an example of where the tension started to get a little uneven across the width of the towel:
See how the thicker pattern section looks a little puckered? It flattened out after shrinking down, but I think that meant I didn’t get the warp evenly tensioned when I wound it onto the back beam.
The last tea towel I felt much more in my comfort zone, so I tried out an unbalanced twill pattern or two:
Two of the pattern strips look different on the front to how they look on the back. Can you spot them? Clue: they are blue!
I really love how these turned out. They feel lovely in the hand (although my Mum is going to frame them!). I wonder what I shall do with the leftover bit of warp? For now the loom is idle, as I look after sick kiddies and catch up on some work.
I knew I would enjoy weaving: and I’m hooked!